Ross County manager Owen Coyle has challenged striker Alex Schalk to continue staking his claim to lead the line for the Staggies.
Schalk was handed his first start since Coyle replaced Jim McIntyre as manager in September in Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Hearts at Tynecastle, replacing Craig Curran, who had previously been favoured by the former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers boss.
The Dutchman made a strong impression, hitting the post with an effort early in the match before having a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
Coyle has been impressed with Curran so far but he expects Schalk to vie for the position along with fellow attackers Billy Mckay and Thomas Mikkelsen, who netted in a 1-1 Development League draw away to Kilmarnock yesterday.
Coyle said: “It’s not easy for Alex if the team stops passing and moving the ball, particularly with the way he plays as he isn’t a 6ft 4in centre forward who can get on to things in the air.
“What Alex wants is the ball played into feet and when that happened, he showed he’s a real threat. When he races through I always fancy them in those one-on-one situations because he can finish.
“He’s worked very hard and has shown the qualities he has, which is great from a striker’s perspective. With the way we play, the chances have been limited for those strikers who are there, Thomas and Billy as well.
“Craig Curran has done very well for us and I’ve got to give credit to him as well. When they get their chance, as Alex did, it’s important they show what they’ve got and I think he did that. He worked really hard.”
Coyle was satisfied with a point against the Jambos but still feels there is room for improvement in the Dingwall men, who host Dundee on Saturday.
He added: “It was a different type of performance in a lot of respects – we had to be brave and stand up and be counted and deal with the pressure. I never really felt uneasy in the respect we couldn’t deal with it.
“The players deserve credit for standing up and dealing with that. But I do think we didn’t pass the ball as well as we could, particularly in the second period and probably latter in the first half. We were honest in our assessment.
“Going away from home to Tynecastle, it’s another valuable point coming off the performance against Celtic and the previous win at home to Motherwell.
“We just need to keep it going but it’s really important we get back to passing it and moving the ball. That can be the difference between drawing games and winning games and that’s what we need to do moving forward.”